Thank you Hououza, full-metal-sousuke, (anonymous) d, and mangadude for your feedback! As always, I appreciate it!

And, not to pun the title, but the translations are right next to the text, so don't get freaked out when it lapses into another language. (You'll see U)

Chapter 6 – Lost in Translation

Shutting the door behind him, the portly, greasy haired man moped his sweating brow with his handkerchief.

Good God did he hate that woman and her smile! How on earth was he supposed to report this new extortion back to his superiors?

These thoughts sent new waves of sweat cascading down his brow and elicited another torrent of wiping.

Walking out, he turned and sullenly waved a fist at the front of Jindai High School and the voracious financial black hole it had come to represent for Mithril's finance department.

The principal, smiling that demonic smile from the very first second he had stepped one foot through her door, had demanded quite a sum to have this Colleen Reese transferred to their school, even though he had given her the viable excuse that the girl had diplomats as parents.

That's what the school thought Mithril was anyways…an obscure part of the government's secret service agency...

She had responded that it would be quite a burden to transfer her into the particular class he required because that specific class was already a tad bit oversized.

As for giving Second Lieutenant Mao and Sergeant Kurz positions within the school…

The man began moping his brow furiously once again at the thought of that conversation.

The smiling woman had casually remarked upon his inquiry that they had introduced a new section within the contracts of Jindai's teachers.

"S-class" injuries.

"S," of course, standing for "Sagara" or "Sousuke Sagara" or "son of a bitch!" as he was commonly referred to in the finance department.

She then, with that horrific smile, noted that the position of gym teacher was open because of just such an injury. Then the damned principal had gone on to lament the incredible cost of hospitalization for both smoke inhalation related injuries and burns incurred from being in the line of fire of exploding lockers.

As for the second position…she said that the school nurse had always wanted to visit Hollywood and stroll down the walk of fame.

Oh good Lord Almighty…how was he going to tell this to his superiors?

This woman was quite a conniving…he didn't even have an expletive strong enough to convey his strong hate of that woman.

…and on top of that she had presented him with an itemized list of the month's damages that had resulted from Sergeant Sagara's recent exploits and casually mentioned they had hired a new secretary merely to keep track of the financial costs of his future ordeals.

She finished by frowning delicately and saying, "My, my, what a financial burden upon the school that boy is! Oh, but I understand his rough background…the poor dear."

"POOR DEAR!" The finance deputy crumpled up the damp handkerchief and did a wild dance that resulted in the piece of cloth tearing into a few dozen pieces.

The smiling principal and that, that, that….again, expletives failed him…Sousuke Sagara!

The janitor watched the man dance insanely as he angrily mumbled incoherently to himself, shaking his head.

Where was the school getting their money from these days?

------------------------------

The class, noisy and rowdy as usual, quieted down a bit as a new face stepped within their midst. She did not smile and Kyouko whispered to Kaname that she looked almost….sad.

Kagurazaka-sensei walked in, and the new girl smiled directly on cue at her.

Kyouko surreptitiously snapped a picture of it.

Kaname wondered if that were the only smile anyone would ever see, let alone record from the girl.

The entire plane ride home, not only had Sousuke been acting strange, but the girl had merely sat there looking out her window into the darkness.

She felt a strange sensation whenever she looked at that girl…and she thought, frowning intensely, she wasn't all too sure she didn't have anything to do with Sousuke's current behavior towards her.

Had she told him something about the Whispered? Or made him think something that had merely brought him back to his mission mentality?

The paper in her hand crinkled at that thought, receiving the punishment in place of the target of her thoughts.

Just then, Ono-D looked at her with a mischievous glare in his eye and proceeded to elbow her.

"So…both you and Sagara were absent yesterday, Kaname."

The class volume decreased and took notice of the conversation.

Kaname merely looked up at him and, recognizing the look for what it was, Ono-D quickly backed off a few feet, arm raised in front of him for defensive purposes.

If looks could kill, at that moment, Onodera would not only have been dead…he would have been a heap of ash upon the floor.

Seeing this, the class's volume immediately rose again as if to mask the interest they had displayed not even a minute before.

No one wished to incite their class representative at times like these. It was suicide.

…they would simply have Kyouko fish information out of her later.

Angry once again, Kaname focused her gaze at the front of the room, wondering how bad, exactly, the day had the potential to become.

Meanwhile the class began. The class stood and bowed to Kagurazaka-sensei.

It was time for introductions.

Colleen neatly wrote up her new alias "Colleen Reese" in bold, but neat handwriting upon the chalkboard and bowed stiffly and formally to the class.

Kagurazaka-sensei merely said, "This is our new exchange student from the United States. She will be with us while her parents do their political work here in Japan. Miss Reese also speaks very good Japanese and English so you can practice with her, if you like."

She held up their recent stacks of exams, the first pages were marked and stained with red ink.

"Some of you need it!"

A tiny wave of fear rippled through the class, manifesting itself in a low frequency murmur.

Many hands popped up.

"What music groups do you like?"

Colleen thought about it for a moment, "I like Mozart, Fauré, Poulenc, Linda Ronstadt, and Shimokawa Mikuni."

The class murmured as they discussed her odd tastes.

"Where did you learn Japanese?"

"I was in Japan for a very long duration for my parents' work a few years ago."

Another hand shot up.

"What is your favorite movie?"

Her face went blank. Kaname wondered when the last time she had time to see a movie was.

She finally answered, "Amadeus" but did not seem very adamant about her own choice.

A hand in the back of the room went up.

"Can you speak English for us?"

The student looked at Kagurazaka-sensei for approval, hoping that his paper did not look like the one she had displayed.

Colleen gave, what seemed to Kaname at least, a rather disconcerting smile.

She nodded and then began speaking very fast in English. Her words made Kaname stare at her all the more in disbelief.

"The name I have given you is actually a pseudonym. I am also a bit older than most of you, but I have been put here to infiltrate your school. There is not a great deal you will be able to teach me, actually. At the age of five I could solve physics and math problems more difficult than even professors could, so my mother and father moved me from my home country of Ireland to the United States."

The class seemed to be absolutely enthralled in the monologue.

…but they did not seem to react the way they should to the content of her impromptu introduction.

Kaname, being able to understand the fast paced speech due to her years with her father in New York, could feel her mouth begin to drop.

She looked around and wondered at the fact that most of her classmates weren't doing the same.

Kagurazaka-sensei looked at the girl with a look between confusion and disbelief.

"At the age of nine," she continued, "I began to attend and be a head researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology up until a paramilitary organization kidnapped me for a duration of three years. Since them I have worked in laboratories in Costa Rica, the Sudan, and here in Japan. Now I am in the control of another such organization."

At that moment, completely distorting her last sentence, Sousuke had chosen that moment to physically tackle her.

Kaname also noticed that he had prepared a contingency plan, as he had a white phosphorus grenade in his hand. But she her mind processed this new realization as if it were more like an afterthought, as she'd raced towards the front of the room, halisen outstretched in front of her.

With a mighty yank she managed to pull him off of Colleen and with a swing of her halisen that would be described in Jindai mythology for years to come, she had sent him sailing back to his desk in the back of the room.

That ought to be more than enough distraction from the girl's bewildering, though most likely factually accurate, speech.

Kagaruzaka-sensei, who had seemed paralyzed when she listened to her new student's words, sprang into action.

"Sagara! I don't know what you're doing acting that way in front of an exchange student! And Chidori! Really, you should show the exchange student better behavior as the class representative," she fanned herself briefly, as if the whole exchange made her liable to faint, and said rather dazedly, "you are the only one who can make Sagara behave, however…"

Sousuke stood up, knocking the desk over one again in the process.

He was now sweating bullets.

"I'm sorry Ma'am!" His posture was stiff, complimenting his military manner, "There was a laser sight aimed directly at her."

Kagurazaka-sensei tapped her foot impatiently.

"Sagara, that excuse won't do this time either!" She turned suddenly to Colleen who looked almost amused by the exchange, "Please do not mind Sagara…he tends to be a bit…over-excited in his efforts at school."

She gave another disconcerting smile, giving an awkward sounding laugh, "I can certainly see that."

"You may continue if you wish."

She nodded and began again, "In lieu of that display of force I would like to say that I am glad to spend this time with all of you. I will enjoy the time I spend as your classmate."

She bowed.

The class grew quiet, processing the foreign language and putting together the meaning of the speech.

The silence seemed to stretch for an eternity. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Sousuke sweating profusely and most likely planning some otaku action.

A moment later the class began cheering and calling "wonderful English!" and variations on "Thank you very much!" One confused student even called out, "you're welcome!"

Those that had gotten some of the message seemed to think that she might be making a joke at Jindai's famous brushes with hijackers, and looked at her with a sense of admiration.

Kaname looked about her…either Sousuke's diversion had been incredibly effective (which she doubted) or she had simply spoken at a pace and used vocabulary that the rest of her classmates could not comprehend at their current skill level.

She looked back at Sousuke again.

He was clutching his gun and looking at her with one of the most suspicious looks that she had ever witnessed…and that was certainly suspicious.

She shot him a look that clearly stated, "put that gun down or you'll regret it!"

…a look which he promptly ignored…

…sighing Kaname then turned her attention back to the front of the room. Kagurazaka-sensei was looking at her a bit uneasily, since, as the English instructor, she had understood the content of the speech as well.

Colleen merely remained fielding questions about her interests and life in the United States.

One student raised her hand.

"What sort of novels do you like?"

"I really like Science Fiction and Fantasy…in fact, it is a hobby of mine to write my own stories of this genre."

She smiled at Kagurazaka-sensei, who had visibly relaxed in light of that answer. She had seen two too many kidnapping attempts for jokes such as that.

There were a few more questions and finally, Kaname introduced herself, with a rather false smile, as the class representative and told her that she could answer any questions that Colleen may have.

They remained staring at each other for a moment longer than might have been proper, however their exchange was still unnoticeable to the rest of the students.

That same odd sensation rippled through her. Kaname definitely did not know what to do with her…or why she had called Sousuke specifically up for that matter. She looked down at her desk, as an excuse to break her gaze off from the other girl.

Perhaps the day indeed had the capacity to reach a new low.

------------------------------

Still in a foul mood half way through Classical Literature, Kaname could merely stare in mock interest toward the front of the room. Instead, as her hand took notes that her mind never so much as processed, she concentrated on blowing an errant strand of hair out of her face.

One puff of air.

It landed in her face again.

Two puffs.

It fluttered briefly before dropping squarely into her face once again. Attempting to brush it to the side of her face, she discreetly glanced at Sousuke.

While he was seemingly at his normal level of alertness, Sousuke looked a good deal more distant to Kaname's knowledgeable eyes.

She glanced back at him briefly, this time in a manner that was sure to catch his attention. Even since he had tackled Colleen that morning he had been, with dogged seriousness, bent over and taking notes. Usually he would have looked up to catch her glance, but even despite her best efforts, he seemed to be stubbornly ignoring her.

She wished it were appropriate to smack him upside the head at that moment.

Instead, she merely sighed.

She still didn't know why this old Sousuke had returned. Half of the time she had expected him to say, "It's merely a coincidence" and look at her from a hole in an old newspaper.

And somehow she felt guilty.

It was ridiculous.

She blew furiously at the bothersome strand of hair…perhaps even a little too furiously.

Kyouko looked over, concern in her eyes.

Kaname merely waved it off and returned to her notes.

She simply needed to put him out of her mind until she could physically do something about him.

Whatever that ended up being.

And she also wanted to avoid thinking about the new exchange student…that would inevitably raise more questions in her head about Sousuke and what had transpired during their conversation.

She then noticed that, for the fifth time that day, a girl complained of a headache and had stumbled through the door to the nurse's office.

They definitely didn't seem to have headaches moments before when they were giggling and passing notes among their friends.

Something was definitely going on.

------------------------------

Sousuke thought over his substandard performance since he had returned from the Tuatha da Daanan.

He chastised himself for being so intent on what he had learned had happened during the period that he was reassigned that he forgot the basic operating procedures of his mission.

Colleen Riley definitely represented a suspicious incursion on the parameters of his mission.

She had given away quite a bit of classified information to anyone that might have understood her. It had taken him a long while to decide whether to use direct force to intervene or use a white phosphorus grenade.

Either choice had its risk factors, mainly in the person of Kaname.

After class had been over, rather than pay for that and his…avoidance…of her, he had stealthily exited and taken up his current tactically advantageous position.

However, he had a mission to accomplish currently, and did not have time to become entangled in his emotions.

When another potential terrorist had put a threatening note in his locker long ago he had taken just such a measure.

Kaname had merely claimed that she had wanted to make a declaration of her feelings for him. He did not, however, fully understand what she had meant by that. Nonetheless, he had put her under surveillance after the incident.

He had dawned a camouflage consisting of various native varieties of foliage and remained, a silenced sniper rifle aimed at Colleen. So far, she merely sat reading an intimidating looking book.

The classmates that approached her were treated with formal, if somewhat cold courtesy and quickly left.

He had not yet seen Kaname.

Sousuke had reason to expect that she had already noticed the plot that Colleen was carrying out within their classroom.

Throughout the day, a vast quantity of female classmates had complained of various ailments that had them sent to the school nurse.

It was reasonable to think that this was a result from some mild biological agent or poison gas that the new exchange student had introduced into the classroom and aimed directly at the female members of the class.

Indeed, this scenario had made him question Mithril's decision to send her here. As soon as he had sufficient proof of her actions he would report immediately to Kalinin.

At that moment, something occurred that went contrary to all of his battle plans.

Someone had ducked into the bush and was now poking through the foliage he was using to camouflage himself.

And who that someone was even more disruptive to his tactical assessment of the situation.

Kaname.

He was lucky that the abrupt manner in which he had encountered her did not allow for him to transition into any thoughts that would hamper his skills as a Specialist.

Sousuke began to sweat profusely, hoping that his camouflage makeup was indeed guaranteed to last, as the packaging proclaimed.

Crouching down, she soon put her hand right on the middle of his back…and felt not dirt, but a burlap sack with a number of branches attached to it.

He could feel her hand stiffen for a moment, as if in disbelief, and then withdraw.

Suddenly the grip returned with a vengeance.

"S-S-S-Sousuke!"

He was fortunate that she had also come to de reconnaissance. Because of this fact that collateral damage that she was capable of causing for his prior actions would be considerably minimized due to noise constraints.

"What are you doing here?"

He wanted to pose the same question to her as well, but wisely restrained himself.

"As you have no doubt noticed, a number of our female classmates have reported various physical ailments and have reported to the school nurse's office. I have determined that the cause may somehow be linked with terrorist activities caused by our new classmate. I have therefore put her under a program of observation in order to respond to her movements with a greater degree of force and accuracy."

Kaname did not look in the least bit impressed at his assessment.

"She's not going to do something like that you war brained otaku. Honestly, why do you always have to pick out the least likely scenario? Didn't you think to check the nurse's office first?"

Sousuke had considered this suggestion. However, should the target determine that her classmates already had full knowledge of her plot, she would most certainly flee the vicinity. Thus, this had appeared to him to be the obvious and most tactically sound move to be made.

There was no telling how much classified information she had already gleaned from Jindai High School.

He told Kaname as much.

She punched him in the gut. She was quit effective in choosing a spot that was conducive to not only neutralizing her enemy, but also knocking the wind out of him to minimize the noise generated by combat.

He belatedly wished that, in this case, the enemy had not been him.

"Chidori, " he said suddenly, "If you are not here because you suspected her of employing biological agents on our fellow classmates, why are you here?"

She was raising her fist again, and suddenly stopped and a look of anxiety flared briefly in her face, color rising to her cheeks. One of these days he would remember to research her circulation deficiency.

Suddenly, she grabbed his arm and pulled him rather forcibly upright, whispering fiercely, "I wanted to make sure that she was getting along with everyone! I am the class representative after all! Ha ha ha ha!"

Out of the corner of his eye he could see the enemy look up in confusion at the class representative dragging him, in full camouflage gear, off towards the building that housed the nurse's office.

This mission had been an unavoidable failure.

He made a mental note to school Kaname in tactics and stealth.

------------------------------

She saw the two of them leave, and then sidled to a pay phone at the edge of campus, usually used by students who had late club meetings or had unexpectedly received clean-up duty.

Taking out a phone card, she dialed a number that she had kept in her memory for three long years.

The phone rang once; a man's voice came on the other line.

"Speak."

She had already formulated a plan – too many people spoke English here for it to be a guarantee against eavesdroppers. Colleen took a deep breath before answering the commanding voice.

"Quisiera hablar con Padre. Soy la hija de él, Santa Catarina." (I wish to speak with Father. I am his daughter, Saint Catherine.)

Santa Catarina.

She hadn't used her government code name in an eternity.

"You've escaped the wheel?"

It was a familiar response, referring to Saint Catherine's persecution at the hands of male adversaries. They had strapped her to the infamous Catherine Wheel in an attempt to break her for having a greater knowledge then them.

It had broken miraculously at her touch.

"Sí, la rueda está rota. En este momento estoy sana y salva, pero hay gente aquí…no sé que querian hacer conmigo." (Yes, the wheel is broken. At this moment I'm safe and sound, but there are people here…I don't know what they want to do with me.)

"Who?"

"La gente de la primera orginización…pero, sabes, no puedo confiar en ellos nada más." (The people from the first organization…but, you know, I can't trust them anymore.)

The other speaker grunted.

"Any guards?"

"Uno…casi dos…" (One…Almost two.)

"Almost two?" He said, reacting to her word choice, "How can you have almost two guards?"

"Hay un grosero, pero é les un francotirador, quizás él no el lo mejor en combiante fisica." (There's a pervert, but he's a sniper, perhaps he's not the best in physical combat.)

He chuckled at her description. Only she would add "pervert" as a salient feature of her description. He continued, "And the other…he's the almost?"

"Sí, él es el "casi" porque es tan joven pero más peligroso. No tiene emociones ni escrupulos con respecto a mí." (Yes, he's the "almost" because he's young but more dangerous. He doesn't have emotions or scruples with respect to me.)

She could hear him fown over the line. She continued on nonetheless.

"Afortunadamente siempre está con su otro parte del trabajo." (Fortunately he's always with the other part of his work.)

Other part of his work? He didn't question her. That was not important at this time.

"What do you want to do now?"

There was a brief silence.

"Yo quiero devolver a mi propio país. Pero…" there was a hesitancy, "No podemos derrotar ningunas de las organizaciones. Las ambas tienen tecnología tan anvances y no puedo ayudar con este. Solamente quiero devolver, estoy cansada del todo." (I want to return to my own country. But…we can't defeat either of the organizations. Both have advanced technology and I can't help you with that. I only want to return, I'm tired of it all.)

The last line she said quietly. Solamente quiero devolver. I only want to return. She was perfectly aware she wasn't what they wanted nor could she help them in any sort of useful way that would impact the future greatly.

Colleen was merely banking on an old promise, having full knowledge of what such promises were actually worth.

"I told him I would…can you escape, at least back to the convent?"

"Convent." Code for the American Embassy. Mithril couldn't operate there without risk of souring political relations with one of their key allies.

"Voy a tartar. Yo sé que soy más intelligente que los agentes, quizás pueda hacerlo." (I'm going to try. I know that I'm smarter then the agents, maybe I'll be able to do it.)

"How much time will you need?"

"Una semana o a poca más. Tengo un pasaporte de la organización o puede usar los canales del gobierno. Sé cuando entrar al convento, nadie puede tocarme o usarme. Nadie." (A week or a little more. I have a passport from the organization or I can use the government's channels. I know when I enter the convent, no one can touch me or use me. No one.)

Colleen spoke this as if it were an absolute truth. Something that she could not help clinging to.

"Santa Catarina," he said, "San Cristobal will protect you."

"Sí, con la voluntad de Dios." (Yes, with God's will.)

She hung up, dialed three other numbers internationally to throw off anyone who might be following her. Checking carefully, she looked to make sure Sagara had indeed left.

Hoping that he had indeed left as she had seen, she walked back to the classroom.

She had work to do.

------------------------------

Kaname wasn't at all prepared for the sight that greeted her when she had succeeded in sprinting and dragging Sousuke the entire distance to the nurse's office.

Indeed, what she found there had reduced her to a state that was seldom seen…utter speechlessness.

However, this did not last very long.

"KURZ!"

The man paused and looked up at her. Around him were seated three or four girls offering him bento boxes.

Up until Kaname's explosion, he had been speaking English and repeating the phrase "Pretty girls!" to which the girls responded with a chorus of ridiculous sighs and vapid giggles.

"Oh, Kana-chan!" He responded, she could almost envision hearts crop up around him. His fan club girl's looked angry that he had referred to her in such a familiar way.

They were staring at her with murder in their eyes.

"Have you come to Nurse Weber's office for something?" He said this in a saccharine sweet voice that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

Exactly whose idea had this been?

"Weber-san," said Kaname, adopting a deceptively sweet tone, "Exactly where did Nurse Kadowaki go?"

She smiled very prettily.

Kurz's fan club looked positively enraged.

"Well," he said winking (the other girls practically turned demonic with rage when they say that), "Nurse Kadowaki took a brief vacation to Hollywood, and because I had just finished my medical research at the university, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to sample my future clientele."

He gave a brilliant smile and an overly animated wink that made the girls watching him wilt.

Kaname thought that a vein would pop out of her head with that answer. Her arms were both taunt at her sides and the knuckles on her fingers had been drained of all color due to the tightness of the fists she had balled her hands into.

"Chidori, " said Sousuke suddenly, standing near the door, "Would you like me to implement extreme measures?"

He held out a grenade.

With a cry of rage she began pummeling him on the head, "Can't you think of anything else, you war-for-brains-otaku!"

"Actually, I have another contingency plan that involves the use of back-up personnel."

His voice bounced unevenly with the blows that he received.

She stopped momentarily, exhausted from the combination of sprinting to the office in the first place and the physical exertion of knocking some sense into the young Specialist.

He took out his phone.

"It's Sagara. Yes, we have a Beta-Romeo-Alpha, priority one, and are requesting back-up."

The other voice presumably acknowledged and he clicked the phone shut.

"Back-up will arrive shortly."

Kaname did not know how much more of this she could handle today.

But she certainly was about to find out.

Outside of the door there was a faint rumbling sound in the distance, followed by the door bursting open and clanging on the wall, it crashed and rebounded, finally stopping when an arm the size of a tree trunk seized it.

At that moment, Mao, who was dressed in workout sweats and a tank top, marched through the door, the rugby team sliding into a noisy heap behind her.

She barked some choice words at them and they, more obedient than she had ever seen them since their conversion into a killing, fighting, winning team at the hands of Sousuke, almost docilely and respectfully nodded to Mao and returned to their class.

She did not care to imagine what had happened to make them that way.

At least there was some improvement to the day. Even if it was only that the rugby team had begun to partially behave themselves.

But this minor miracle was accompanied by the fact that apparently Mao had taken over the position of substitute gym teacher until their normal instructor recovered completely from his injuries and psychological damages…and Kurz was apparently now taking the place of a mysteriously vacationing nurse…these very much did not shift the balance of the Kaname's day's downward trend.

Mao glared at the assembled girls, appraising them one by one as if they were recruits in boot camp.

Suddenly, a mischievous smile lit her face up.

"Teacher meeting! You," she pointed directly at the girls, "need to clear out so I can speak with Weber about some pressing matters."

The girls looked belligerent for one last time before sullenly gathering up their bento boxes and walking to the door, muttering among themselves and casting dark looks in the direction of both Mao and Kaname.

Melissa then turned to Sousuke and gave him a sharp salute and a wink.

"I'm glad we planned for that before hand, Sousuke."

Kurz, during this whole exchange, looked alternatively outraged and a bit afraid of what might occur.

"Sousuke, you're dismissed, I can handle disciplinary measures from here. Thank you for your work as well, Kaname."

She gave her a mock salute as well.

They both turned to leave, the sounds of the disciplinary measures echoing behind them.

Directly outside of the classroom, however, Kaname's mood, which had begun to lift due to the return of Sousuke's "normal" behavior (as normal as sitting behind sniper rifles in bushes could possible be, at least) and Kurz's impending punishment, immediately crashed down again.

Colleen was leaning on the wall directly outside of the office.

"Chidori-san," she said, not with an unfriendly tone, but definitely not a tone that invited open conversation, "If Weber has further breaches of conduct, please notify me. Mr. Kalinin told me to contact him directly if needed."

She actually gave a small, rare smile.

Kaname sputtered her thanks. It was the first time she had actually spoken face to face with the girl, and somehow it failed to be the bristling encounter that she had expected.

------------------------------

They walked home at the normal time, at a normal distance, at a normal pace….and in an entirely abnormal silence.

Kaname had begun by chatting idly and half way stopped when she noticed that Sousuke only responded to her in a series of grunts and absent minded, monosyllabic, slow responses.

The lack of conversation gave Sousuke the opportunity to explore his thoughts.

During Sousuke's time in Tokyo he had come to appreciate walking home. Unlike his travels in Afghanistan, he did not need to worry about possibly encountering land mines, hostile troops, or natural predators.

He simply could walk (perhaps apprehending an occasional security risk), with Kaname at his side and feel as if, for the first time in his life, there was a home somewhere at the end of the road.

But today this sense of security was more or less absent.

And, as much as it disturbed his well-trained sensibilities as a Specialist, he couldn't help but feel as if his trust in Kaname had been shaken even a bit by what he had learned about her situation with Leonard.

But, he found he couldn't simply ask her what the parameters of that situation entailed.

Had she been any other person, he would have directly and effectively confronted her, possibly in the style of an interrogation.

He was used to such standard operating procedures.

But, as with most situations he encountered that Kaname was somehow involved in, the standard operating parameters did not apply.

Kaname was not any other person. She was the only person he trusted, the only person he didn't need to guard himself against, the only person that he would allow to come near him with an unsheathed lethal object (although this only applied in select situations).

And she had said she trusted him.

He looked down at his feet as he walked.

She trusted him, but she hadn't told him about Leonard…about kissing Leonard Testarossa.

What was that sort of trust?

He didn't understand completely.

By this time, they had arrived in silence at their respective apartment buildings. Kaname gave him a somber good-bye, looking at him with a mixture of suspicion and confusion.

Climbing the steps to his own apartment, he played over the arguments in his head, still uncertain as to what to do.

With each floor he arrived at, anger flared to life within him.

Except for that one time on the Tuatha da Daanan after he had returned from the mission in his homeland, he could not recall being angry with her.

For a brief moment he lost control. He had only done that the night he had received his reassignment orders from Tessa. That had taken him away from Kaname.

And a small part of him feared the same events were playing out again in a much different manner that he could not simply repair by negotiating a new contract.

He grabbed the first thing he could off of his desk, Mao's glass ashtray, and threw it on the floor.

It shattered into a small flurry of ash and glass shards.

He looked up to see Colleen looking at him from the threshold of the door.

Her face was fixed in a passive expression, as if observing a completely ordinary event.

After a moment she nodded.

"Sometimes it's good to do that." She retrieved a broom, "I'll tell them I was clumsy and knocked it over when they get back."

Sousuke simply remained looking at her as she swept up the mess.

Sweeping up the remainder of the ashes she said softly, "I don't exactly know why you're acting like this and I know you don't trust me, but nothing gets better unless you make it so for yourself."

He watched her, his anger slowly abating. She threw away the remnants of the ashtray.

Sousuke couldn't deny the truth in her words.

------------------------------

A/N: Thank you all for reading! I'm sorry for the long wait for this chapter, but at least I did very well on all my exams and papers. My intent with the chapter was to put in some humor, because the plot is turning out to be rather dark! Also, as per the usual, there are lots of random allusions to lots of aspects of FMP! Fandom. :) Thanks once again and reading and as always, feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you all again!